the 1970s, when I left my parents’nest for
Vassar College, I never worried about anti-Semitism. Only a train ride from New
York City, I felt safe and accepted at my home away from home. Vassar, in
particular, had been welcoming to a diverse population—especially gay and
transgender students—long before such efforts to diversify were considered
educationally desirable and politically correct. Apparently those days are over,
with respect to being Jewish—not just at Vassar but at other elite colleges
here and abroad.
freedom to enjoy elite colleges for Jewish Americans lasted for only a brief window
in U.S. history. In my mother’s generation, many colleges had “quotas” (limited
number of spaces available) for Jews. My best friend’s mom was accepted to Mt. Holyoke
as part of the Jewish contingent in the late 1940s. Later, the quota system was
abolished. So Jewish Americans enjoyed a temporary sweet spot in academia between
the abolishment of the quota system and now.
article entitled “Vile at Vassar” (in last year’s New York Daily News)
described how current college President Catharine
Hill allowed an “anti-Israel infection” to linger for months before finally criticizing the rhetoric of anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).
The criticism came only after much provocation, including the Anti-Israel group
display of a cartoon labelled
“Liberators” that shows a monster stomping on a European city while wearing a
Star of David and carrying a U.S. flag. Before that incident, SJP had hosted an
“Israel Apartheid Week” in an attempt to disrupt a Vassar-sponsored trip to
Israel. Even more disturbing is the fact that some faculty members participated
in the anti-Semitic fever. Thirty nine professors protested after President Hill
finally decided that Vassar would not join the American Studies Association’s call
to boycott Israeli universities. As an
alumna, I remember receiving letters and emails from Hill trying to explain and
justify the school’s position in this toxic affair. I was just happy my son had
avoided most of the cross-fire by graduating in 2013.
is not alone with anti-Semitism problems. The debate over what constitutes
anti-Semitism has spilled into Stanford University student government elections,
according to an article in The New York
this week. While seeking an endorsement from the Students of Color
Coalition, a Jewish student was asked how her religion affected her view of
divestment from Israel. This question shifted
the focus from the campus election to a fiery argument about ethnic identity
and loyalty. When the Jewish candidate revealed that she opposed divestment, there
was an awkward silence after which her interview ended—without gaining the
group’s endorsement. I’d vote for this young woman based on her honesty alone,
and I’m rooting for her in the Stanford University election.
the first one to defend freedom of speech. But protesting Israeli government
policy is NOT the same as anti-Semitism. The problem occurs when anti-Israel
sentiment is exploited and propagandized to feed and fuel anti-Semitism. Currently,
anti-Semitism on college campuses is growing at a terrifying rate, with more
than half of Jewish students reporting they have suffered some form of anti-Jewish
harassment, according to a recent study conducted by Trinity College and the
Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. The survey (which included
1,157 Jewish students at 55 American colleges) found that 54% experienced or
witnessed “anti-Semitism on campus during
the first six months
2013-2014 academic year.”
patterns and high rates of anti-Semitism were surprising,” reports Ariela
Keysar, an associate research professor at Trinity College who co-authored the
report. “Rather than being localized to a few campuses or restricted to
politically active or religious students, this problem is widespread. Jewish
students are subjected to both traditional prejudices and the new political
anti-Semitism.” Keep in mind that the Trinity survey was conducted BEFORE last
year’s conflict in the Gaza Strip, before anti-Jewish sentiment spiked
globally. I don’t know about you, but these frightening findings make me want
to stay home.
any of you also noticed the alarming increase in anti-Semitism here and around
the world? If you’re Jewish and grew up in New York City in the ‘60s, the
subject didn’t come up nearly as often as it does now. If we talked about anti-Semitism,
it was WWII, a cautionary tale for us kids about a time when racial prejudice
and aggression ran wild. Tales of anti-Semitism were always followed by
reassurances that American Jews had been safe during the war and would continue
to be safe. At school and camp, I pledged allegiance to the American flag with
special gratitude and passion.
Of course, I know anti-Semitism has
always existed, long before World War II. Scapegoating is an ancient and
primitive human pastime, driven by emotions like envy, spite, and fear. Bigotry–against
Afro-Americans, against Jews, against Asians, against whoever we cast as
“other”— will continue to haunt humanity
into the future. But when I headed off to college, travelled to Israel, Egypt, and
many other parts of the world, I was exposed to very little anti-Semitism. Even
in Arab countries where anti-Semitism became a palpable presence—when my
friend’s passport with an obviously Jewish last name was stamped—I never felt personally attacked or unsafe while travelling,
the way I would now.
and I used to love vacationing in France, but not anymore. Paris is still romantic;
the resorts in the south are sublime in their beauty and elegance. Too bad all
I can think about in Paris now is the slaughter of Charlie Hebdo journalists
and the kosher butcher shop where customers were gunned down. After a long Arctic
winter nestling deep into my nest, (see “Hunkering Down,”3/6/15) it would
be nice to fly to one of my favorite foreign countries. But this year it won’t be France. Did you
know that last week a French soccer player, Nicolas Anelka, created a furor by
publicly giving a reverse Nazi salute, the quenelle, after scoring a goal
during a match?
Where did this oblique version of Sieg Heil originate? Dieudonne M’bala
M’bala—a popular French comedian who has been repeatedly condemned and fined by
French courts for his anti-Semitic comments—performs the backward quenelle, and
it has quickly become an internet sensation. Since its resurgence in
popularity, the quenelle has been used by athletes in France, the United
Kingdom, and even here in the US. Earlier this week, San Antonio Spurs guard
Tony Parker gave a public apology after a photo surfaced of him giving the reverse
Nazi salute with Dieudonne.
authorities are considering shutting down Dieudonne’s one-man show, which has
been playing to packed houses in Paris. After
a recent performance Dieudonne quipped that hearing Patrick Cohen, a Jewish
journalist, makes him yearn for the
return of gas chambers.
(!!!) Who is
laughing at that joke? Not the 6 million Jews who died in WWII, nor the 15,000
homosexuals, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people. Not the 25
million Russians killed fighting the war, or the 15,000,000 Chinese. In fact, the 8
million Germans who died are not laughing either. http://www.secondworldwarhistory.com/world-war-2-statistics.asp
I’m hoping the next global
generation will regard all past genocide missions –Bosnia, Armenia, Native
Americans, Australian Aboriginals, Pygmies, Rwanda, and Kurds, IN ADDITION TO the
approximately 72,468,900 people who
died in WWII— and feel HORRIFIED instead
of amused. How would Dieudonne, of Afro-American descent, feel if a popular
white comedian in New York said he longed for friendship with the Ku Klux Klan and
wished he could invite them to bring a lynch mob onto his show? But that would
never happen, right? Because that would be racism . . .
First they came for the Socialists,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade
Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and
there was no one left to speak for me.
Labels: anti-Semitism, Charlie Hebdo, college, Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, France, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jews, Ku Klux Klan, Mt. Holyoke, quenelle, Stanford, Vassar, World War II